Guest post by Abass
Just as you wouldn’t pay a huge price for a substandard product or service, no client will ever pay you well for writing crap – and that’s if you’re lucky to attract one in the first place.
So if you really want to make money – real money, not crumbs – as a freelance writer, you must keep honing your writing skills – and never stop.
The truth is, you can’t be a flawless writer from day one. No, I wasn’t, Bamidele Onibalusi wasn’t, and this runs true for most other seasoned writers. However, with hard work and dedication, you can keep polishing your writing skills until you’re an expert – or very close to being one, at least. Only then can you get that huge dose of confidence that will spur you to go for the high-paying writing gigs.
Sadly, most freelance writers never leave the low gigs cadre because their writing is not just good enough to convince any client to drop the huge bucks. Some have even lost all hope of ever being able to better their skills. So, they either keep wallowing in mediocrity or leave writing altogether.
Whether you’re a new writer or not, you must never stop improving your skills – not even when your clients keep raining accolades on your work. There’ll always be a gap between you and perfection. It may be little, it may be a lot, but there’s always some. What matters is that you reduce this gap gradually and get closer to perfection.
Have you been finding it hard to improve on your writing? Have you lost hope on ever being able to write like those seasoned native English writers? Here are 7 mistakes you most probably have been making – or some of them, at least.
1. You’re not reading other writers
If you’re aiming to be good at something, you must study how the “big boys” in that venture play their game. Similarly, to be a good writer, you must read extensively, work done by seasoned writers.
Don’t just skim; study critically how the experts coin words, look at their use of punctuation, learn new words and expressions, and observe the limits to which they murder some rules of grammar – professionally. Do this every day, religiously, and you’ll improve with time.
2. You’re not reading books on writing
Now, there’s a difference between observing how seasoned writers write (as discussed above) and reading books that teach better writing. The former shows you how they’re applying their skills – practically. Reading books teaches you how to write well and shows you the rules – theoretically.
So, when you observe an expression, for instance, as used by another writer, it’s not enough to know that you can also use the expression in the same way. You should know what rules of grammar have come into play. I think I should even admit, here, that learning better writing theoretically should precede studying the practical ways of doing it.
There are loads of helpful resources that teach how to write well. Check out the courses, guides, and physical books recommended by Bamidele Onibalusi on this page. I’ve personally read some of them and found them indispensable for those who really want to master the art of writing.
In addition, I’ll recommend that you read regularly and subscribe to blogs like Daily Writing Tips, Web Writer Spotlight, and Purdue Online Writing Lab. If you do, I confidently guarantee that you’ll become that expert writer you’ve always wished you were.
3. You’re not practicing well enough
How can you master an art that you’re not practising regularly? To be a seasoned writer, you must not just be a vast reader; you must be a vast writer. Yes, you must keep writing like crazy – even when you’re not paid for it – until you’re sure your writing is near perfection.
Every day, find yourself a topic to write on, do some research and start writing. But keep in mind to apply any grammar rules you’ve just learned or observed an expert writer apply.
By writing consistently and implementing every new thing you’ve learned, you’ll become a better writer.
There’s no substitute for this approach; if you can’t find time to write regularly, then you can’t be a better writer. That’s it!
4. You’re writing for yourself
You don’t believe you can be writing for yourself? Believe me, you really can! And that’s when you’re writing to impress yourself rather than your readers. You get it now?
When writing, especially for the web, write as though you’re facing an audience and trying to enlighten them. Use an interactive, conversational tone and style and allow the words to flow freely from your mind. Only then will you be writing for an audience and not for yourself.
And remember, your words should not be understood by only you. Use words that every reader will understand. Avoid difficult grammar. Many internet users are not native English speakers, and at least 95% of your readers won’t have a dictionary around them. They don’t even have the time to check it either. So they’ll rather discard your writing and read something else!
5. You’re not writing the right way
When I started writing around a year ago, my writing methodology was terrible. Yes, very terrible!
This is what I used to do then – out of naivety though:
Supposing I’ were to write an article on a particular topic, I’d search Ezine articles or Wikipedia for a related article and then start paraphrasing it. And that’s it! If the source article was much longer than what I was to produce from it, I’d only paraphrase relevant parts of it. In short, paraphrasing was all I used to do – then. Yes, I thought that was probably the best way to write a “unique” article
Do you know why this approach is terrible?
First, you’ll never produce a good article from it. Your article will only be as good as, or even worse than, the source article. Most articles on Ezine – and other article directories – lack quality. They were written merely for link building.
Secondly, there’ll be conflict between your style and your choice of words: the author of the source article chose words that were in line with his style, which flowed freely from his mind. But you’d have murdered that perfect combo by changing his words and trying to force your own words to conform to his style (of course, you’ve not brought in your own style). My friend, it just won’t work that way!
There are many other bad approaches to writing (I’ve only given a personal instance). But to be a good writer you must learn how to write quality content the right way.
Note that there’s more to quality content than grammatical flawlessness. Your tone and style matter, just like the uniqueness and factuality of the information you offer.
About six months ago, I stumbled upon one article that taught me how to write an excellent article from scratch. It turned out to be one of the most valuable articles I’ve ever read. You can find it article here. I’m sure you too will find it extremely helpful.
6. You’re overconfident
You’ll never become a better writer if you’re too proud to admit that your writing isn’t flawless (of course you can’t correct a mistake you never admitted you made). As a writer with high hopes, you must readily accept corrections and criticism. And even when these are not forthcoming, never misinterpret that to mean perfection. You’ll never be perfect! You can only get close. So, you must continue learning from others, no matter how “good” you are.
7. You’re always eager to fix
After writing a new article, there’s this natural urge to hit the “publish” button on your blog dashboard or to send the piece to the client, immediately. This spurs you to edit the piece instantly.
Frankly, this urge will ruin your career if you cannot say “no” to it. The ideal is, after drafting a piece of writing – be it for yourself or for a client – leave it aside for many hours (at least) before going back to edit it. In fact, the longer you leave it aside the better. So, leaving it for days is best.
This way, you’ll read it from a fresh perspective, and with keener eyes that pick out errors more easily. Most expert writers always emphasize this recommendation.
If, on the flip side, you edit a piece of writing immediately after drafting it, you’ll most likely be unable to fix it right.
Try this experiment:
After writing an article for your blog, edit it immediately and fix everything you think is not right. Then save it on your PC. Leave it for at least 24 hours and then read it again.
I’m sure you’ll notice some errors – which your eyes skipped before – and say, “Oh my God, is this the same piece I thought I’d edited?”
I’m sure you now know where and how you’ve been faltering all along. Now, it’s time to take action. If you’ve been making any of these mistakes, start correcting them and start polishing your writing skills now.
It doesn’t matter if you’re improving at a snail’s pace; what matters is that you improve after all.
Only seasoned writers are respected and well paid, and you can be one, too. So, hone your skills and start earning the huge figures.
Now, tell us…
Do you think there are other reasons why writers aren’t improving on their skills? Let’s have your comments.
Abass Toriola is a medical student and seasoned freelance writer who enjoys helping people grow their businesses with the power of quality content. He is the author of VitalHealthInfo.com, a blog on which he shares simple practical tips on how to live a healthy life.